Tall Task

GVL Archive
Charlie Socia will help the soccer team out on Thursday during the Semi-Finals

GVL Archives

GVL Archive Charlie Socia will help the soccer team out on Thursday during the Semi-Finals

Joe Maher-Edgin

Currently on an unbeaten run that dates back to Sept. 19 of last year, the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team has risen to the challenge of keeping the streak alive and battled through the NCAA Division II Tournament in hopes of a three-peat as national champions.

The Lakers (20-0-3, 15-0 GLIAC) are just a game away from returning to the national championship game after defeating Colorado School of Mines 4-2 in penalty kicks on Nov. 20 in the National Quarterfinals, and a new tactical challenge will present itself in today’s opponent, California State University-Chico.

“They’re a very big team,” said GVSU head coach Dave Dilanni. “The height of their team is going to cause us problems especially in physical play.”

Dilanni estimated a few of Chico State’s players to between 5 feet 9 and 5 feet 10, a few inches taller than GVSU’s average team height.

“They’re a pretty good defensive team and pretty organized,” Dilanni said. “They’re battle tested coming out of the (California Collegiate Athletic Association), one of the best conferences in the nation.”

The Wildcats (13-6-5, 10-4-2 CCAA) finished their regular season in first place of the CCAA North division before dispatching conference rivals through the first three rounds of the national tournament. As the a No. 5 seed in the tournament, Chico State has upset all opposition thus far, including two No. 1 seeds, Abilene Christian University and University of California-San Diego, and a No. 2 seed in California State University-Los Angeles.

GVSU assistant coach Erica Demers said the team has been preparing two days before and after a two-day break for Thanksgiving.

“We feel really good with how our training has been going,” she said. “We started incorporating things about (Chico State) the last two days of our training.”

Demers also mentioned Chico State having a potential height advantage over the Lakers, but the team seems to have tactics figured out.

“From what we’ve experienced from California teams from the past is that they’re very narrow teams,” she said. “They’re formation is stretched, so the width of the field will be important for us playing outside.”

GVSU junior forward and leading scorer Ashley Botts said focusing on “their” game will help dictate the matchup with a tall Wildcat side.

“We’ll try to keep the ball the on the ground and move around their defense to remove the height advantage,” she said.

Botts said the Lakers are hopeful to make it back to the title game but are just excited to get back out on the field after a two-week break from match play.

“We are just trying to take it one game at a time and not trying to look forward, but we all are really hopeful that we can get there and send our seniors off on such a high point like we did the last two years,” Botts said.

The Lakers will face off against Chico State at noon Thursday from Ashton Brosnaham Park in Pensacola, Fla. The other National Semifinal game featuring the College of Saint Rose against Armstrong Atlantic State University will be played at 3 p.m. Links for live video, as well as live stats, will be available on the tournament homepage at www.ncaa.com/championships/soccer-women/d2.

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